Not showing up for court is a poor choice as a defendant has the right to be present for the entirety of the trial process. This includes misdemeanor trials, pretrial hearings, and sentencing. This does not mean that a trial or hearings cannot go forward without the defendant. A trial or hearing can move forward “in absentia” when a defendant does not show up for his or her court dates. There’s criteria a judge must consider before ordering that a trial continues without the defendant. One, a judge must consider whether the defendant could be located within a reasonable amount of time. Second, a judge must consider whether it would be difficult to give a new trial date. Third, the court has to consider whether the evidence will be lost or if witnesses may disappear if the trial is postponed. Depending on the circumstances, a judge may rule that the case can proceed without the defendant.
The Parker Warning
In most cases, the judge will tell a person charged with a crime that they are not showing for the court will forfeit their right to present for future proceedings in their case. These warnings are known as Parker warnings. This means that if somebody “blows off” court and fails to appear when they are directed, the case can move forward without them. Even a trial, where the person’s guilt or acquittal will be determined, can occur without the accused being present if the judge has previously given them Parker warnings. The difficult job of defending a person accused of a crime at trial becomes even more difficult when the defendant is not there to provide their lawyer with crucial information and assist in their own defense. If the defense requests, the judge can give an instruction to the jury that they may not speculate as to why a defendant is not present. However, any experienced defense attorney would agree that sitting at the defense table without a client is rarely to their client’s advantage.